Pedagogy/Resource: Archival Research in NYC

This post, created originally for the “Rise of Graphic Archives” first-year research seminar that I teach, contains information about NYC-area archives and finding guides. This list is far from exhaustive, but should get you started thinking about what and where you might research. If you come across information that belongs on this list, feel free to share.

A place to start is with the ArchiveGrid database, which contains “a million collection descriptions from thousands of libraries, museums, and archives.” This powerful database will let you search across finding guides that archives have made available to the ArchiveGrid database. As you’ll see as you search, there are ways to limit your search within a specific geography (e.g. NYC) or even within a specific repository.

With ArchiveGrid, as with all of the archives below, not everything contained within an archive is fully cataloged, especially online. You will need to email an archivist to find out more information in order to plan your research visit(s).

The Asian/Pacific/American (A/P/A) Institute
Description: A/P/A collections are housed in multiple repositories within the NYU Library system including Fales Library & Special Collections and Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives. The Fales Library & Special Collections houses literary, artistic, and pop cultural collections. The Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives houses collections that document political and social movements.”
Online catalog: You can find the collections through Fales and Tamiment, but you can also access a list and descriptions of relevant collections through the A/P/A website.

Centro Archives
Description: The Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora, known as Centro Archives, collect, preserve and make available for research unique primary materials that document the history and culture of the Puerto Rican Diaspora with a concentration on New York City. Among the collections are the records of community based, legal, educational, cultural, civil rights organizations, the papers of activists, writers, artists, scholars, educators and elected officials.”
Online catalog: http://centropr.hunter.cuny.edu/archives/collections/archive-collections?

Columbia Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Description: The Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) is Columbia’s principal repository for primary source collections.  The range of collections in RBML span more than 4,000 years and comprise rare printed works, cylinder seals, cuneiform tablets, papyri, and Coptic ostraca; medieval and renaissance manuscripts; as well as art and realia.  Some 500,000 printed books and 14 miles of manuscripts, personal papers, and records form the core of the RBML holdings.  One can find literary manuscripts from the 14th century to the papers of authors Herman Wouk and Erica Jong.  Archives as varied as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Random House, NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International-USA, and the archives of Columbia University are available for research.  The history of printing, graphic arts, and the performing arts are strengths of RBML.”
Online catalog: The RBML landing page contains links to information about searching collections in RBML, to an archives portal (with links to archives portals for other Columbia archives), and other relevant information. Also, check out this listing of the various comics collections within the RBML.

The Fales Library & Special Collections
Description: The Fales Library, comprising nearly 350,000 volumes of book and print items, over 11,000 linear feet of archive and manuscript materials, and about 90,000 media elements, houses the Fales Collection of rare books and manuscripts in English and American literature, the Downtown Collection, the Food and Cookery Collection, the Riot Grrrl Collection, and the general Special Collections of the NYU Libraries.”
Online catalogYou can find online finding guides of processed collections through the descriptions linked above. You can also search across cataloged collections. Note that this online search also can be use to look through other collections, as well.

Fordham University, Archives and Special Collections
Description: Fordham has an expansive collection of rare books and manuscripts, spanning from the Classical and medieval to the contemporary. Some collections of note include: the McLees Collection of Gaelic language books, the McGarry Collection of crime, miniature books, the Bronx African American History Archive, the Marie & Otto Maurer Mystery Collection, the Rosenblatt Collection of Holocaust artifacts.
Online catalog: Some finding guides are linked on the manuscripts page, and a number of the special collections are searchable in the Research Guides @ Fordham. A number of digital collections are available here.

Interference Archive
Description:The archive contains many kinds of objects that are created as part of social movements by the participants themselves: posters, flyers, publications, photographs, books, T-shirts and buttons, moving images, audio recordings, and other materials.”
Online catalog: https://catalog.interferencearchive.org/. You can search a small selection of their collection in a growing digital catalog, but you need to directly contact them for more comprehensive information on what is contain in the archive.

Lesbian Herstory Archives
Description: “The Lesbian Herstory Archives is home to the world’s largest collection of materials by and about lesbians and their communities.” “We will collect and preserve any materials that are relevant to the lives and experiences of Lesbians: books, magazine, journals, news clippings (from establishment, Feminist or lesbian media), bibliographies, photos, historical information, tapes, films, diaries, oral histories, poetry and prose, biographies, autobiographies, notices of events, posters, graphics and other memorabilia.”
Online catalog: Most of the materials at the Lesbian Herstory Archives are not cataloged online in a comprehensive manner, so emailing is key. The many different collections are described on multiple pages of the website, and there is an online index of some of the personal papers.

LGBT Community Center National History Archive
Description: “Founded in 1990 by volunteer archivist Rich Wandel, the archive provides a look into the lives and experiences of LGBT people throughout the years. The Center Archive contains a wide range of media from as early as 1920.”
Online catalog: The manuscript collections are cataloged, but you will have to email about periodicals holdings.

The New York Public Library Archives & Manuscripts
Description: The New York Public Library holds nearly 10,000 archival and manuscript collections comprising over 50,000 linear feet of material in nearly every format imaginable.” There are a number of divisions holding materials, which you can read about at the linked page.
Online catalog: The online catalog is here, but remember that not everything is cataloged either here on online elsewhere. The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts still keeps some ephemera files in a card catalog, for example. To learn more, browse through the webpages about the collections available at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

The Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Description: Tamiment has one of the finest research collections in the country documenting the history of radical politics: socialism, communism, anarchism, utopian experiments, the cultural left, the New Left, and the struggle for civil rights and civil liberties. It is the repository for the Archives of Irish America, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, and a growing Asian American labor collection.”
Online catalog: You can read an overview of the collections and search through the online finding guides. You can also search across cataloged collections. Note that this online search also can be use to look through other collections, as well.

Quick links to other collections:
ABC No Rio Zine Library, http://www.abcnorio.org/facilities/zine_library.html
Barnard College, https://archives.barnard.edu/ & https://zines.barnard.edu/
Brooklyn Collection at the Brooklyn Public Library, http://www.bklynlibrary.org/brooklyncollectionhttp://bklyn.newspapers.com/
Brooklyn Historical Society, http://www.brooklynhistory.org/library/about.html
Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research, http://library.columbia.edu/locations/chrdr/collections.html
Columbia University, http://library.columbia.edu/locations/libraries.html
Columbia University Archives, http://library.columbia.edu/locations/cuarchives.html
Fashion Institute of Technology, http://www.fitnyc.edu/library/sparc/
International Center for Photography, http://www.icp.org/collections
Hispanic Society of America, http://hispanicsociety.org/hispanic/collections.htm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, http://www.metmuseum.org/art/libraries-and-research-centers/museum-archives & http://www.metmuseum.org/art/libraries-and-research-centers
MoMA, http://www.moma.org/learn/resources/archives/index
NYC Municipal Archives, http://www.nyc.gov/html/records/html/archives/ archives.shtmlhttp://www.nyc.gov/html/records/html/archives/collections.shtml
New York Historical Society, http://www.nyhistory.org/library/manuscript-collections
Queens College, http://www.qc.cuny.edu/Academics/Degrees/DAH/library/ SpecialCollections/Pages/Collections-and-Finding-Aids.aspx
The Seymour B. Durst Old York Library, https://dlc.library.columbia.edu/durst

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